Airlines had been clamoring for the government to drop the pre-departure testing requirement for a long time, since they viewed it as a significant impediment to a complete recovery. Travelers aren't too sad about this development either.
The White House is expected to announced on Friday that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will end its requirement for air travelers to test negative for Covid prior to arriving in the U.S., according to an official in the Biden Administration.
The CDC said it was lifting the requirement, which had been in place since January 2021 because “science and data” indicated it was no longer necessary. The move, which will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, also comes after intense lobbying from major U.S. airlines, which had argued the pre-departure testing requirement was preventing a full recovery.
“Lifting this policy will help encourage and restore air travel to the United States, benefiting communities across the country that rely heavily on travel and tourism to support their local economies,” said Nicholas Calio, the president and CEO of Airlines for America, an industry trade group.
“We are eager to welcome the millions of travelers who are ready to come to the U.S. for vacation, business and reunions with loved ones.”
A survey last month by intelligence company Morning Consult revealed that 47 percent of vaccinated international travelers in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan and India unlikely to travel in the next year cited mandatory pre-departure Covid testing as a reason.
Despite the lifting of pre-departure testing requirements, most non-citizen visitors will still need proof of Covid vaccination before flying to the country. In addition, a Biden administration official said that the CDC would reevaluate the need for a testing requirement in 90 days, acknowledging the possibility it could be reinstated if a new Covid variant emerges.
Nevertheless, prominent U.S. travel industry executives expressed their pleasure about the White House dropping the requirement, especially as U.S. booking sites have seen a strong demand for travel this summer.
“(Friday) marks another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” said Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
“The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry.”
The American Society of Travel Advisors also applauded the CDC’s decision.
“While plenty of challenges remain in terms of rebuilding the travel agency business, (Friday) is a great day,” said the organization’s president & CEO Zane Kerby.
UPDATE: This story was updated to include quotes from Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, Zane Kerby, president & CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors, Nicholas E. Calio, the president and CEO of Airlines for America, and information about the survey by Morning Consult and vaccination requirements.
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